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Posts Tagged ‘Eurostar

A snail-like top speed

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Why has it taken Eurostar 20 years to start running trains to Marseille and Amsterdam? The problem was, there were no genuine high speed lines in Britain for the trains to run on, according to an article on the ‘Citymetric’ website.

'Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?', Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015

[Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?, Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015]

There were only the East and West Coast Main Lines, with a relatively snail-like top speed of 125mph. As a result, journey times on the UK side could not match the genuine high speed networks on mainland Europe, and while British Rail did begin running a shadow service of regional trains connecting with Eurostar at Waterloo in 1995, these trains ran almost empty. They’d ended completely by 1997.

In any case, a nine-hour rail journey time between Glasgow and London simply couldn’t compete with pioneering budget airlines. […]

Aside from how to get trains through the tunnel, there are also questions over the lack of capacity on the rail network in northern France. High Speed 1, the line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras International, is only about half full, which allows for excellent reliability on the British side – but what happens when high speed trains meet congestion at the other end? Without French investment in their equivalent infrastructure, LGV Nord, the “paths” do not exist, and the delays might stack up.

This sounds like a load of old nonsense. Firstly, the rail journey time between Glasgow and London is not nine hours.

Secondly, the prior non-existence of through services between London and Marseille, and London and Amsterdam, cannot be a result of there being “no genuine high speed lines in Britain to run on”.

Thirdly, had they started running, the Nightstar trains would have been loco-hauled, and unable to run at more than ~160 km/h, even on new-build lines.

Fourthly, the idea that the LGV line to Paris is “approaching capacity” is questionable (especially in respect of the section between Calais and Lille). HS1 was, in essence, designed to French specifications (signalling included), so the line capacity on either side of the Channel is probably the same.

Written by beleben

April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in England, High speed rail

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The cost of selling Eurostar International Limited

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The UK government has reached agreement for the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar International Limited (“Eurostar”) for £757.1m.

[UK Government reaches agreement on the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar for £757.1m, gov_uk, 4 March 2015]

The Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander announced today that the UK government has reached agreement for the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar International Limited (“Eurostar”) for £757.1m.

A consortium comprising Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure has agreed to acquire government’s 40% stake in Eurostar for £585.1m. The sum exceeds expectations for the 40% stake when the government announced that it was inviting offers for its stake in October 2014. Eurostar has, on closing of the sale of the government stake, agreed to redeem HMG’s preference share, providing a further £172m for the exchequer.

[…] Founded 50 years ago, CDPQ is a long-term institutional investor that manages funds primarily for 33 public and para-public pension and insurance plans. As at December 31, 2014, it held C$226 billion in net assets. As one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers, CDPQ invests globally in major financial markets, private equity and real estate. It also brings a strong track record of global infrastructure investment, with an investment portfolio valued at over C$10 billion. CDPQ holds the highest credit ratings from DBRS, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Hermes Infrastructure, part of Hermes Investment Management, is a UK-based fund managing approximately £3 billion on behalf of clients including the Hermes GPE Infrastructure Fund (“HIF”). Hermes Infrastructure is focused on delivering enhanced risk-adjusted returns for investors through a range of investment strategies and a diversified infrastructure portfolio.

SNCF and SNCB – the other shareholders in Eurostar – have the option (the “Pre-emption Right”) to acquire HMG’s 40% stake for a 15% premium to the agreed price of £585.1m. Closing of the sale to the CDPQ and Hermes Infrastructure consortium is conditional on SNCF and SNCB not exercising the Pre-emption Right. The transaction is also conditional on regulatory approval.

Of course, the proceeds of the sale are just a small fraction of the amount of public cash put into Eurostar, since it was set up.

Extract from 'Alstom Transport v Eurostar International Ltd [2012] EWHC 28 (Ch)'

European Commission approval of GB state aid to Eurostar

Written by beleben

March 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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How reliable are HS2 cost estimates?

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Earlier this month, the cost of HS2’s proposed Washwood Heath rolling stock facility was officially estimated at £51 million (2nd quarter 2011 prices), i.e., less than half the cost of the (smaller) Calvert infrastructure depot.

HS2 London – West Midlands cost estimate, January 2015 (source: HS2 Ltd)
Element £m (2Q 2011)
1.0 Land and property 1.1 London Euston 579.82
1.2 London Metropolitan 221.96
1.3 Country South 319.12
1.4 Country North 306.09
1.5 West Midlands Metropolitan 315.50
Sub total 1742.48
2.0 Tunnel works 2.1 Tunnels 2427.17
2.2 Portals 213.02
2.3 Shafts 358.13
Sub total 2998.32
3.0 Civil engineering 3.1 Cuttings and embankments 1309.00
3.2 Retaining walls 339.29
3.3 Bridges 450.95
3.4 Viaducts 836.89
3.5 Roads and pavings 391.91
3.6 Other structures 352.78
Sub total 3680.82
4.0 Stations 4.1 Euston 1506.37
4.2 Old Oak 798.84
4.3 Birmingham interchange
(Bickenhill)
277.08
4.4 Curzon 283.58
Sub total 2865.87
5.0 Depots and stabling 5.1 Washwood Heath 51.01
5.2 Calvert 136.62
5.3 Heathrow Express relocation 152.87
5.4 London sidings 0
5.5 Other facilities 96.96
Sub total 437.47
6.0 Railway systems 6.1 P-way 546.56
6.2 Signals 113.30
6.3 Telecoms 93.02
6.4 Electrical contact systems 162.62
6.5 Electrical distribution
equipment
422.82
6.6 Station and depot systems 192.31
6.7 Tunnel systems 167.81
Sub total 1698.44
7.0 On-network works 7.1 Civil engineering 0
7.2 Stations and depots 0
7.3 Railway systems 528.67
Sub total 528.67
8.0 Indirect costs 8.1 Corporate 1002.99
8.2 Project management 820.58
8.3 Design 395.36
Sub total 2218.93
Gross point estimate 16171.01

For comparison,

  • Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot cost ‘up to’ £402 million, according to Lord Davies of Oldham (Hansard, 1 December 2004)
  • Network Rail’s South Wales resignalling was estimated at £400 million in 2011
  • the ‘Birmingham Gateway’ refresh of the existing New Street station was budgeted in excess of £600 million.

Written by beleben

January 30, 2015 at 11:18 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Stranded in the dark

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No light or information

No light or information

More than a thousand rail passengers were left stranded for up to eight hours aboard two Eurostar trains last night after a power cut in northern France, Mail Online reported.

[“More than 1,300 Eurostar passengers stuck in the dark for NINE HOURS after power cut leaves them stranded on train from London to Brussels”, MO, 21 Nov 2014]

Furious travellers said they were left in pitch darkness with no fresh air or flushing toilets after a power cable snapped above a section of track between Lille and Calais.

One train travelling from London to Brussels with 600 passengers on board was held up from 8pm until 4.40am at which point a diesel-powered train finally arrived to move it on.
[…]
A spokesman for Eurostar admitted the passengers would have been left in the dark while the trains were stranded as they are completely dependent on power from the overhead lines and carry no emergency back-up.
[…]
There have been a number of breakdowns on the cross-Channel service over the year, with the run up to Christmas 2009 being particularly disastrous.

In late September of that year overhead power line dropped on to a train arriving at St Pancras station in London, activating a circuit breaker and delaying 11 other trains.

Two days later power was lost on a section of line outside Lille, delaying passengers on two evening Eurostars.

Then, during heavy snow in December 2009, four trains broke down inside the Channel Tunnel after leaving France, affecting some 2,000 passengers.

The incident is a reminder of the need to consider ‘bad case’ scenarios at the design as well as the operating stage. So far as can be established, HS2 is not being designed as a resilient system. All the same, it’s surprising that it took so long to provide a rescue loco on the lightly used Calais — Lille track.

You can’t move a tee-gee
You can’t move a gee-vee without a spark
This gun’s for hire
even if we’re just stranded in the dark

[apologies to Bruce]

Written by beleben

November 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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The ‘success’ of Eurostar

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The success of Eurostar?

Investment bank UBS has been hired to handle the sale of the British government’s 40% stake in Eurostar before the election, the Daily Express reported (13 Oct). Earlier this year, HM Treasury took over the stake from London & Continental Railways.

[‘Osborne to signal start of Eurostar sale’, Alison Little, Daily Express,
October 13, 2014]

[…] The chancellor will say he is looking for bids by the end of the month and is hopeful the privatisation of the Channel tunnel train operator will raise up to £300m.

Britain has part-owned Eurostar for the past 20 years, but according to Osborne the sale is part of the Treasury’s plan to reduce the national debt by offloading state assets.

The “success of Eurostar” has encouraged the government to build a second high-speed line linking London with cities in the Midlands and the north, and its sale would lead to a “small” reduction in Britain’s £1.4 trillion national debt, the Guardian reported.

[‘UK government to sell Eurostar stake before general election’, 13 Oct 2014]

The French state-owned railway company, SNCF, owns 55% of Eurostar, while the state-owned Belgian company, SNCB, owns the remaining 5%.

SNCF has indicated that it is not interested in buying Britain’s stake but has a “last look” right that would allow it to come in at the end of the bidding process and pick up the holding at a 15% premium.

Pension companies, investment funds and infrastructure funds are seen as the likeliest bidders, with the UK government hopeful that the sale will be completed in the first quarter of 2015.
[…]
Other state-owned assets being lined up for sale include the legacy Royal Mail pension assets, the uranium enrichment company Urenco, the income-contingent student loan book and further public sector wireless communication spectrum.

Eurostar looks like a ‘bargepole’ asset. As with HS1 Ltd, pension companies or investment funds will be looking for big sweeteners to take on the stake.

Written by beleben

October 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, Politics

Tagged with

Leader of the wack

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Centro graphic claimed that HS2 would allow sub-3-hour journeys from Birmingham to Paris The West Midlands must be served by direct high speed rail services to Europe “if it is to take full advantage of the tremendous opportunity HS2 brings”, said the chairman of the West Midlands transport authority Centro.

[Go HS2 weblog, Posted on February 27, 2013]

[Councillor] John McNicholas, chairman of Centro, said high speed rail services would be able to reach Paris and Brussels from Birmingham in less than three hours.

Through services to other cities on the growing European high speed rail network, such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt, would also be possible.

“High speed rail presents a tremendous opportunity for the West Midlands bringing jobs and investment,” he said.

“Journey times from Birmingham to London, Leeds and Manchester will be halved by high speed services, but it is essential we’re also able to take full advantage of improved European connections.”

Cllr McNicholas said it would be a missed opportunity if high speed rail passengers from the West Midlands had to change trains or even stations in London in order to access international services.

He said provision must be made for passport and customs control at Birmingham’s city centre station in Moor Street and at the Birmingham Interchange station.

“I welcome the proposed direct link between HS2 and the existing HS1 line from London to Europe but it must be capable of allowing passengers in the West Midlands fast, direct rail travel to the continent.”

Cllr McNicholas said the current proposal for a single track HS1-HS2 link may prove inadequate to meet future demand and added that the West Midlands was working closely with Transport for London and other authorities to ensure UK regions could be served by European connections.

“I urge the Government to consider a fully segregated two track link between HS2 and HS1, which could cater not only for high speed rail services from the West Midlands to a range of destinations on the continent but which would also facilitate new high speed rail links between the region and economic centres in East London and Kent.

“High speed rail is great news for our region and we want to see fast, direct links with European cities.”

Over a decade ago, Regional Eurostar and Nightstar carriages were ordered for services from Britain’s provincial cities to Europe via the Channel Tunnel, but low demand ensured they were never used for that purpose.

HS2 would only reduce the Birmingham-to-Europe rail journey time by just over half an hour, so it’s unlikely such trains could run without heavy subsidies. Is councillor McNicholas proposing that council tax be used to subsidise rail travel to Europe?

If HS2 paths were reallocated away from Euston and onto HS1, that would surely reduce loadings, revenue, and the benefit cost ratio. HS1 was designed as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and its domestic connectivity is poor. It would be difficult to envision a viable HS2 through service to towns like Maidstone and Canterbury.

Written by beleben

February 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Not-so High Speed One, part two

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Part one

Southeastern train operating company map, showing HS1 and conventional services

By road, London to Margate is about 78 miles [126 km] and a ‘1 hour, 50 minute’ journey.

By Southeastern High Speed rail, it is ‘1 hour, 28 minutes’ — which works out at just over 50 mph [81 km/h].

Is that ‘high speed’?

Charles Horton in the Southeastern video about HS1 startupAt the time of writing, the Southeastern website hosts a video about the launch of the company’s High Speed commuter services, in which managing director Charles Horton stated that they had increased capacity by “around 5%”.

Does 5% represent a transformational change in capacity?

Although HS1 is signalled for ‘twenty trains per hour per direction’, the standard Southeastern service only involves four trains per hour. According to an article by Andrew Roden in November 2007’s International Railway Journal, Eurostar was to be allocated eight paths per hour. However, in 2012, Eurostar only used around two of them (the company’s SNCF-style scheduling does not employ regular intervals).

There are many lessons to be learned from HS1. But they are of no concern to the special interests pushing the HS2 project.

Written by beleben

January 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

Tagged with , ,

Staggering appointments

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Richard Brown in the 'kidnap victim' Eurostar video

Richard Brown

On 28 June, transport secretary Justine Greening announced the appointment of four non-executive directors to the board of HS2 Ltd. They include Godric Smith, a former spin doctor for Tony Blair, and Richard Brown, a former chief executive of Eurostar. Here’s the details from the press release.

Richard Brown has held high level positions in and around the rail sector. Through his association with HS1 and Eurostar, he brings experience of the specification and delivery of major rail infrastructure, and ensuring longer term value for money. He is also able to add further value through his experience of running an operational high speed railway.

Godric Smith is currently Director of Government Communications for London 2012. From 2006 to 2011 he was Director of Communications for the Olympic Delivery Authority. He worked at Downing Street for 10 years from 1996 – 2006 including as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman from 2001 – 2004.

Duncan Sutherland has undertaken a number of senior development roles working with Local Authorities; as Director of City Development in Coventry, and as Chief Executive of the property and investment arm of the City of Edinburgh Council. For the last 12 years, he has worked with Local Authorities and developers to realise large scale, long term regeneration projects. He will advise and challenge the senior executive to ensure the widest possible receipt of benefits.

Mike Welton has been re-appointed to the Board. During his early career he was part of Department’s design and construction management team for the M3 and M25. He returned to the private sector and led, from senior executive positions, many large civil engineering projects, including the London Underground Jubilee Line tunnels and stations. He retired from his position as Group Chief Executive of Balfour Beatty in 2004, to follow a non-executive career.

Duncan Sutherland is also appointed by Scottish Ministers as a Non Executive Board Director of the Scottish Canals Board.

As Non-Executive Directors, their primary responsibilities will be to ensure that:

* the Department requirements, laid out in the Sponsor’s Requirement and Project Development Agreement, are adhered to throughout development;

* the performance and conduct of management in meeting agreed milestones, including the preparation of annual reports and annual accounts and other statutory duties is monitored effectively;

* high standards of corporate governance are observed, including high standards of probity in line with both best practice and statutory requirements;

* the executive function is provided with advice and challenge in all areas affecting development;

* stakeholder relationships with partnership organisations are developed and improved.

The Board will be based in HS2 Ltd’s offices in central London. Non-Executive Directors of HS2 Ltd receive a per diem of £950, and are expected to commit 2 days per month to the business of HS2 Ltd.

Public appointments are made for a period of 3 – 5 years, however re-appointment is possible, if mutually agreed, to a maximum engagement of 10 years. It is necessary to ensure that the Board has continuity, by staggering appointments:

Godric and Duncan have been appointed for 3 years. Godric will take up his post in October, on conclusion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Richard and Mike have been appointed for 5 years, as they will provide advice and challenge on the preparations for construction following Royal Assent for the hybrid Bill in 2015.

[…]

Richard Brown said:

“I am delighted to take up this appointment. This is a fantastically important project for the country, and I will work to ensure that we deliver a project that is not simply a design marvel but also, in the longer term, a successful operational railway”.

Duncan Sutherland said:

“I am very happy to be joining the Board of HS2 Ltd. This is a vital project for the country and I will work to ensure that the regenerative benefits, and opportunities for long term, large scale development, are maximised across the high speed rail network”.

Godric Smith said:

“High speed rail has an important part to play in helping modernise our national infrastructure, renew our railways and promote growth. I look forward to making a contribution to the development of HS2 over the next three years”.

Mike Welton said:

“I am very pleased to have been asked to remain in my position on the Board of HS2 Ltd. I will continue to work to deliver this project, to ensure that our transport infrastructure is fit to meet our needs for the future, addressing the very real problems affecting capacity, while securing the best value for money for the taxpayer”.

Notes to Editors

The Non-Executive Directors of HS2 Ltd are appointments made by the Secretary of State for Transport. This appointment falls within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and will be made in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.

All appointments are made on merit, and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for an appointees’ political activity (if any is declared) to be made public.

The appointees all declared that they have no political activity.

HS2 Ltd is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB). It was also established as a Companies Act company, limited by guarantee, on 14 January 2009. It has a sole member, the Secretary of State for Transport, for whom it is remitted to undertake work.

HS2 Ltd is funded from the public purse by grants-in-aid. The company’s objective was to ‘advise the Secretary of State for Transport on the development of proposals for a new railway line from London to the West Midlands and potentially beyond’.

Following a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport to proceed with a London to West Midlands route, the remit was extended to:

* undertake further work and provide advice to enable the Department to deposit a hybrid Bill with Parliament in October 2013, in order to gain Royal Assent by May 2015, in respect of the London to West Midlands line.

* the delivery of a safe and affordable route design; assessment of the environmental impacts of this design and production of the Environmental Statement; and, the consultation with all relevant bodies on aspects of the proposals.

* developing routes from the West Midlands to Leeds, with a connection to the East Coast Main Line, and to Manchester, with a connection to the West Coast Main Line, and a spur to Heathrow, to include appropriate engineering designs and sustainability appraisal and the implications for the whole Y network.

* prepare materials and provide advice to develop and inform future consultations

The current/previous Board has been very effective during the conceptual stage of the project. Prior to the Secretary of State’s decision Andy Friend had already notified the Department that he did not wish to serve on a reappointed Board for the implementation phase. Sir Brian Briscoe notified the Department that he wished to step down from his role as Chair, but was willing to continue his Non-Executive Director role until 2014, in order to provide continuity on the Board.

Written by beleben

June 29, 2012 at 9:15 am

Fully private entity

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AFP has reported that Eurostar posted ‘stronger traffic and sales‘ in 2011.

Railway operator Eurostar, which links London with Brussels and Paris, said Thursday that traffic and sales increased last year despite a decline in the number of business travellers.

Eurostar, which is 55 percent owned by the French national railway SNCF, posted 2011 sales of 803 million pounds (963 million euros, $1.27 billion), an annualised gain of 6.0 percent.

The railway made a net profit of 20.8 million pounds, according to a statement that did not provide a comparable figure for 2010, explaining that it was the company’s first year of operation as a fully private entity.

Traffic on Eurostar’s high-speed trains increased by 2.0 percent to 9.7 million passengers as the railway continued to attract people who might otherwise have flown between the three relatively close European capitals.
[…]
In addition to SNCF, the railway operator is owned by London Continental Railways, which has a 40 percent stake, and the Belgian national railway SNCB, which holds 5.0 percent.

The figures suggest that the average cross-channel one-way fare paid on Eurostar was £82, but doesn’t say how many Lille Loopholers there were (they pay £0). I’d rather walk and swim, than pay £82 to travel by train to Paris. But despite the outrageous fares, the company could only make £20 profit on every £800 of sales. No wonder it’s owned by the governments of France, Britain, and Belgium.

Written by beleben

March 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm